By Nicole Israel
NICOLE ISRAEL, a 4L evening student at New York Law School, is student editor of Student Lawyer .
If taxes are one of life’s certainties, then what better way to ease the aggravation than with a good old-fashioned barbecue? Barry University—Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law received an ABA Law Student Division grant to help fund its first Super Saturday lunch for its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Representatives from prominent organizations such as United Way, Second Harvest, the Legal Aid Society, Wells Fargo, and SunTrust, among others, came out for the cookout to assist individuals with financial advice, financial seminars, and direct deposit setup for those getting their taxes done that day.
“The event was valuable to our law school community because it was the first time in our nine-plus years of running a VITA program where our preparers and clients were able to sit down, enjoy a meal, and have meaningful discussions outside of a tax setting,” said Nelson Crespo, the president of the executive board of the Barry VITA program.
More than 35 volunteers and representatives participated in the program, providing citizens with financial help as well as helping students learn the basics of the US tax code. But that’s not all.
“Being part of the VITA program also teaches students how to deal and interact with many different types of people, which students will experience when they get out there and start practicing law,” Crespo said. “From the real world side, being part of the VITA program at times is a very humbling experience and allows students to see and realize that we are fortunate to be in a position where we can help those with less than ourselves.”
Barry’s VITA program has been recognized for nine consecutive years with the National Achievement Award from the ABA’s Law Student Division. The school’s VITA program provides free tax help for low– to moderate-income citizens and assists them in completing their tax returns. The program has provided tax assistance at five locations in Central Florida: the Barry Law School campus, the VA Medical Center, Orlando’s Coalition for the Homeless, Walt Disney World, and Barry University’s site on Alafaya Trail. Crespo said the Super Saturday event helped strengthen Barry’s reputation and build stronger community ties in Orange County, Florida.“We were able to spread the word about the IRS VITA program, which is always a plus,” Crespo added.
Barry Law’s VITA program was launched in 2006 and was recognized that year with the Division’s VITA Rookie Site Award. The program has been honored with the National Achievement Award every year since.
Vol. 43 No. 8